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Macedonian President Confident Reforms Will Pass

26 July 2004 -- Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski has said he expects parliament to vote in favor of giving greater local powers to the country's ethnic Albanian minority, proposals which have sparked violent riots.

After talks yesterday in Brussels with European Union foreign- and security-policy chief Javier Solana, the Macedonian president said those opposing reforms were fighting "their last battle" and that the majority of Macedonians -- regardless of their ethnicity -- were against any attempts to derail a reform process that would bring the country closer to the EU.

Dozens of people were injured on 23 July in clashes between police and protesters over plans in the southern town of Struga, where Albanians outnumber ethnic Macedonians. The violence was the most serious sign of tension since a peace deal ended seven months of conflict in 2001.